Oh, but Doctor, I couldn’t possibly meditate.jpg

Oh, but Doctor, I couldn’t possibly meditate

WELL, I have to agree. The word meditate does rather conjure up images of gurus sitting crossed-legged on the floor, wearing only a loin cloth and eating nothing but vegetables! Yet, meditation is a very useful tool in any recovery programme. It is something that the patient can do for him/herself, which helps them to take control of their individual healing process.

These days, most of us know what stress means. In a nutshell, it is the range of feelings that threaten to overwhelm you, as you realise that you no longer run your life, your life is running you. Meditation really helps get a hold on that sense of being overwhelmed.

Quite some years ago, I went on a two-day, transcendental meditation course at a centre in London. It was very well run, the basic science of the relaxed state of mind was clearly explained and, by the end of the two days, I had enough mastery of the technique to be able to successfully meditate at home. The instructions – take 20 minutes out, twice a day to meditate – would, they said, improve my state of mind, my physical and mental capacities would be enhanced, resulting in helping me to get the most out of my life.

Over the years, as my domestic and work commitments became more and more onerous, I found it not only impossible to get 20 minutes quiet time twice a day, but that the technique was not focused enough for a working mother. If I was going to spend 40 minutes everyday meditating, I really needed to gain more tangible benefits from it than a calm feeling of wellbeing.

Over time, I have changed the way I think about meditation, teasing out the essentials and cutting down the necessary time to around 15, 20 or even 10 minutes at a pinch.

Meditation is a stress reducer, which is beneficial to everyone who leads a busy life. An important point to note is that everyone reacts differently to stress.

During the Second World War, studies were conducted on fighter and bomber pilots, to try and understand why some men seemed to cope well and have no ill effects, and some just broke down. The only difference they could come up with was that the pilots who coped well had a better breathing rhythm! It seemed that some just did keep calm, while others did not, and breathing rhythms are a good indicator of that.

So, it’s not so much what the stresses are, but how you deal with them that matters.

OK, so here are my two favourite tricks for getting in control of my life. The first is a general relaxation technique. It is excellent for relaxing after a busy day, or stopping halfway through your day and taking a “Time Out”, to get back in charge of your life.

Lie on the floor, knees bent, hands comfortably on your hips, with a stack of paperback books (around three inches high or so) under your head. Adjust, so it is comfortable. Put the “knobbly bit” of the back of your head, that is just above the neck, on the books. Then, with a clock, or watch, where you can easily see it, focus on your breathing. No effort is required, just let it settle into a comfortable rhythm. After about eight or nine minutes, you will feel a change, and a lovely spontaneous relaxation occurs. Continue for two or three minutes more, then stop. Do not wait longer than 15 minutes overall.

The second technique is also simple, but probably needs 20 minutes or so. Find a quiet place to sit comfortably, taking a note pad and pen with you. It is important that you are not interrupted. Now, sit still and focus on your life and its myriad of worries, but – and this is the important part – detach your sense of judgement, by just allowing all of the thoughts that are crowding into your head to pass through. Don’t pay any attention directly to any one of these thoughts. Just let them have their say and move on. This takes a bit of practice, but the disengaging is the first part of the exercise.  

Then, there comes a point when, after around 10 or 15 minutes, the mind starts to quiet itself – this is the moment for the pen and paper. In a period of five minutes or so, write down the issues as they come to mind, do not try and censor, or force your mind, just write down the thoughts as they occur to you. When the list is complete, you should feel much more in control. You may find some of the thoughts quite surprising.

If you have more time, say a whole morning, then the list you make can form the basis of an academic analysis of your lifestyle; a very useful tool for keeping your life on track. The thing to remember is, that all judgements are suspended for this exercise; just a straightforward examination without emotion works the best.

Good luck!


D.O., M.A.

Osteopath and

Medical Ethicist